Skip links

Leading Women of Long Beach: Vivian Malauulu, First Latina Elected to the LBCC College Board

Long Beach Moms proudly shines a spotlight on the remarkable local women of our community who are history-makers. These women exemplify resilience, passion, and dedication, leaving an indelible mark on the vibrant tapestry of Long Beach. Join Angelica Wheaton, founder of Long Beach Moms, in discovering their inspiring stories and extraordinary contributions to our city and beyond.

Meet Vivian Malauulu, a Career Educator, Longshore Worker, Freelance Journalist, Union Official, College Trustee, Community Volunteer, Immigrant, Wife, and most importantly, a Mother to four busy kids between the ages of 15-23. She and her husband George have been married for 25 years and they reside in the Wrigley neighborhood of West Long Beach.

Can you share with us a bit about your journey to becoming a local history maker while balancing the responsibilities of raising a family in Long Beach?

My journey in civic service began when I was a kid in Carson, which is the city just west of Long Beach.  I was very active in school, and I volunteered heavily in the community from a very early age – starting in 1984 when I was just 10 years old.  In addition to being Student Body President of my elementary, junior high, and high schools, I founded an afterschool reading club at our local library, participated in the pageant circuit, represented Sister Cities of America as an ambassador, volunteered with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary, and was a California Girls State Delegate.  Those experiences took me to Sacramento, Washington DC, and Japan before I even got my diploma in 1992. That activism earned me an appointment as the youngest Public Relations Commissioner in the City of Carson at the time.  When my husband and I were still dating, we both got involved in several ministries at Calvary Chapel South Bay which is where we were eventually married in 1998.  After our wedding, we moved to Long Beach and dedicated ourselves exclusively to the children’s ministry teaching Sunday school and volunteering at Vacation Bible School every summer. We started having kids in 2000, and soon after I jumped headfirst into their school and sports activities, leading the parent-teacher fellowship, helping in their classrooms, organizing events like chapels and plays, chaperoning field trips, coaching teams, and creating opportunities for development through fundraisers and outreach.  Even though I really wanted to do more, I deliberately did not volunteer to do anything outside of my family life again until my youngest child started kindergarten in 2013 I waited until all my kids were in school full-time before I ventured outside of our home to pursue the passions that interested me.  The first thing I did was to formally run for committees within my union’s local. My husband and I had spent several years volunteering to serve our union, and I wanted to learn more about organized labor. I also attended neighborhood association meetings and joined political clubs.  At the invitation of a dear friend, I helped her with the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program of the YMCA of Greater Long Beach.  For many years, my family and I would visit our neighborhood preschool to read to kids, play learning games with them, plant gardens, host holiday parties, and raise funds for specific projects.  In the spring of 2014, I was invited to become a member of their Board of Managers – a role that I still fill today – ten years later.  The mayor at the time recognized my involvement around town and appointed me to the citywide Commission on Youth and Children.  Four years later, and after a lot of research, we were successful in lobbying the City Council to change the name and charter to what is now the Commission on Youth and Families.  The new structure allowed us to facilitate more substantial projects that have noticeably improved the quality of life for youth in Long Beach. We implemented the City’s Youth Strategic Plan, introduced the City’s Youth Poet Laureate Program, and founded the City’s Youth Festival – just to name a few of the great initiatives we sponsored.  I termed out after serving two full terms on that commission for a total of eight years, with 6.5 years serving as Chair and Co-Chair.  I did all of this, at first while teaching high school, and later when I worked full-time at night as a longshore worker. I also taught journalism part-time at LBCC. All of that while having four kids in eight years.  Pregnancy and breastfeeding were not as accepted and embraced in the workplace back then as they are today, so every day was a struggle with breast pumps, diaper bags, car seats, and baby strollers.  In those early years of motherhood, I met lots of incredible people and I learned many valuable lessons that influenced me to be the woman, mother, and worker that I am today.  The decision to run for public office on the college board was very organic and consistent with the many interesting projects I was already organizing in my union, in academia, and in the community.  That is what led me to run for office on the LBCC Board of Trustees.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced on your path to making history, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is always making sure that my family gets the BEST of me, and not the REST of me.  Ensuring that my kids are happy, healthy, well-rounded, and “good busy” is always my priority.  I regret when “scary mommy” had to show up (especially during the morning hustle before school, lol) but being “sweet mommy” was always the goal.  Sometimes tough decisions had to be made that forced what I wanted to do to take a back seat to what I needed to do.  Some of the “big” decisions involved finances like pausing my doctoral degree or forfeiting much-needed days off so I could work extra shifts to pay for the kids’ tuition and travel ball expenses.  Then there were “small” decisions like making pancakes for dinner because I forgot to defrost chicken.  Being hyper-organized helped me get through those blessedly chaotic years.  Living by a calendar where everyone’s activities were color-coded and carefully timed to allow for traffic and bathroom breaks made a big difference.  I didn’t sleep much because there was always something to be done.  I would stay up late at night checking that I had everything ready for the next day. Laying out the kids’ clothes, reviewing assignments, looking through backpacks, reading school bulletins, responding to emails, opening household mail, paying bills, and writing endless lists of things to do occupied the wee hours of many mornings. Then, during the day while the kids were in school, I would do household chores, run errands, handle family appointments, and attend a variety of meetings.  Laundry was always going on in our house.  I used to keep a cooler in my car with bags of fruits and veggies, frozen water and juice bottles, and assorted snacks like cheese and hummus.  My mom gave me a small travel toilet for the kids to use which I kept in the back of my car.  It was the cutest thing, and it came in clutch so many times!  That was the best mom hack before hacks as we know them were a thing!  I also kept a first aid kit, emergency school supplies, and a duffel bag of extra clothes and shoes in case one of the kids had an accident or got too dirty.  I hate fast food, so I went out of my way to avoid it even if it meant staying up an extra hour to have the next day’s after-school sandwiches and post-practice meals/snacks ready.  Having warm crockpot dinners waiting for us when we got home after a long day of school, music lessons, gymnastics, and sports practices was EVERYTHING.  We had a very structured nightly routine after dinner that included bathtime, homework (that hadn’t been completed in the car or during a sibling’s activity), reading or drawing, and bedtime.  Our kids were not allowed to watch TV during the week, and the TV they did watch on the weekends had to be approved by us.  Once they were finally in bed, that’s when it was time for me to go to work on the docks.  My schedule varied but I usually worked a late swing shift, or what we call a “hoot” shift which started at 2 or 3 am.  I never slept. A secondary challenge is that there are so many things that I would like to do, but there is just never enough time. For example, I love writing and I wish I could just write all day, but I must work, so I settle for using my writing skills to assist my union sisters and brothers with appeals, full and fair review requests, and arbitrations for their welfare and pension issues. I have a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, and I used to work in radio/TV news, but these days I only have time to pen an occasional human-interest feature. Contributing to various publications as a freelancer fulfills my deep-rooted and longstanding fascination with sharing compelling news stories. If I didn’t have to work for a living, I would stay home and write stories about real-life people and share them with the world.

Making history is often a profound experience. Can you describe what it felt like when you realized you were breaking new ground in your field or community?

The sense of gratitude that I felt the night that I became the first Latina elected to the LBCC Board of Trustees has never gone away and still feels new today – eight years later.  There is immense humility in knowing that the public trusts me with their vote and that is an intense responsibility that I proudly carry not just for myself – a little immigrant girl from Honduras whose trajectory of life was changed when she was adopted by a Black man when my mother married my stepfather – but also for the woman who is married to a Samoan man, the mother of four kids, the teacher, the longie, and the freelancer.  I strive to always do the right thing because people depend on me to do so, and I cannot let them down.  I sincerely want to make my people proud. If I mess up, it will ruin it for other Latinas, other mothers, other teachers, other longies, and other women who venture into the public square because they might be judged by my mistakes.  My faults could potentially cast shade on them, and that could make people leery of giving them a chance which would be terribly unfair. I do not just represent myself.  My actions and words are a reflection of my family, my affiliations, my culture, and my faith.  This is so much bigger than I am.  I always think, “My kids are watching me – would this make them happy or sad?  Does this honor or shame my family in my native country?  Will this strengthen or weaken my union? How will this affect our college district or my neighbors?”  By the same token, if I do well, then perhaps it will make it easier for others who follow. Breaking new ground in any space entails a tremendous amount of accountability that should never be taken lightly.

How do you think your accomplishments have impacted the local community, particularly Long Beach Moms who may be inspired by your story?

I will respond to this question in two parts; personally and professionally.

Personally, my most important accomplishment continues to evolve, and its impact remains to be seen because it involves my children.  If they become independent self-starters who excel in their chosen fields of interest and have positive impacts on their respective communities, then we all succeed.  From when they were little, we instilled in our kids the principle that they represent Hondurans, Samoans, believers, and the student-athletes of their schools and teams.  I often say, “You were raised right, so act right!”  They have within their power to make choices that establish them as solid role models for others like them, or as an embarrassment to them.  We ask our kids to consider what if they are the first and only Hondurans/Samoans that someone ever meets. What impression will they have of other Hondurans/Samoans after your encounter? Will they think you are an upstanding person who is hard-working, mature, smart, and trustworthy, or will they have a negative opinion of you based on your reckless actions and foolish words? My kids are not perfect.  My family is not perfect.  I am far from perfect. We have fallen short many times and disappointed ourselves and each other, but we admit our mistakes, own our faults, and regroup. That’s when we hit the reset button, learn from the experience, and hopefully not become repeat offenders.  Raising kids requires a lot of patience, involves a lot of trial and error, and necessitates behavior modification techniques that no one teaches parents when they start families. And the worry, oh the worry! No one ever warns you about that! Our family has struggles just like every other family.  We argue, we cry, and we stress.  But we know how to forgive, laugh, and pray As the cliché says, we work hard so we play hard. If my children are motivated to give back to our community and to pay things forward for the next generation, then that will be my greatest accomplishment. Our world will be a better place if we urge young people to help others and not hurt them, and to lead lives that inspire honor and love.

Professionally, I hope that the efforts that I dedicate my time to outside of my family will someday yield measurable results and have a lasting positive impact.   I am committed to creating opportunities for others to attain self-sufficiency through dignified work. I ran for the college board because I knew I could make a difference at LBCC for students, faculty, staff, and the greater Long Beach area.  We significantly expanded student support services which has resulted in increased matriculation and higher graduation and transfer rates. We created a classified senate and added it and the academic senate to the dais which aligns with our mission of robust shared governance on campus. We negotiated unprecedented collective bargaining agreements with our employees that include the very first, second, and third three-year contracts with long overdue gains such as paying adjuncts for office hours.  We broadened existing collaborations with corporate partners and cultivated new ones. We entered into an extraordinary project labor agreement that creates jobs specifically for students, veterans, minorities, women, and local residents for at least two decades.  This is HUGE and will have fantastic long-term impacts on our neighborhoods for generations.  My blood, sweat, and tears went into establishing the first and only labor center in the region which gives our students frontline access to resources for career training and placement.  It is a place to get the necessary upskilling and reskilling that is required in the age of automation, particularly with jobs in the manual, technical, and trades industries.  We opened the first and only flea market on the Pacific Coast Campus which is in the heart of my trustee area. Every other Sunday, this modern-day swap meet transforms the area around it into a very diverse and eclectic gathering place for residents, visitors, and tourists. This has a profound impact on artists, chefs, creators, small businesses, and the neighboring economy that needs help recovering after the pandemic. The best part is that 70% of the vendors are WOMEN! These initiatives are a direct result of how all of us collaborating can build a future in which we all thrive.  Think about it, if our students excel in school and on the job, the quality of so many families’ lives will improve.  Our neighborhoods will benefit from their success and so will our city and the region.  This type of attainment has widespread benefits such as tangible economic progress which can lead to the reprioritization of how we allocate resources. With that comes financial stability, growth in homeownership, increased civic engagement and volunteerism, and improved mental health and physical wellness.

Balancing family life and career aspirations is a common struggle for many moms. Can you share any insights or advice on how you managed to pursue your goals while raising a family?

I will also respond to this question in two parts.  First, balancing family life while pursuing my career aspirations.  Even though I worked full-time outside of our home, I still made it a point to spend quality time with my kids every single day.  Bonus if I spent quality time with each kid each day.  When they were little, it was usually reading to them or real talk at the dinner table.  As they got older it was a Target run or a movie night.  Although three of my kids are now in college, I still try to make that happen.  The term “quality” is subjective so it could be a deep conversation with one kid and a humorous meme text exchange with another.  We have group chats which I know annoy them but if they want me to pay for their phone, they had better respond.  Car time driving between activities was, and still is, precious to me.  I love it when we are all in the car together – which becomes rarer as the kids get older.  I intentionally ask open-ended questions as soon as we get in the car to initiate a conversation before the kids inevitably fall asleep.  Every kid is required to participate.  Their mom is an English teacher, so they need to contribute with a substantive response using “big” words.  I know they hate it, but because of it, each of my kids can carry on meaningful conversations.  Other times we blast our favorite songs and just wild out in the car singing and seat dancing.  When they were little, we spent so much time driving around town that I invented road games to challenge their imaginations and vocabularies like pick a car in which they had to describe in detail what random passengers in a car do for a living based on the make/model/color and other contextual clues. It was hilarious! I would force them to listen to news/talk radio and then discuss what we heard.  That wasn’t always fun and games.  Sometimes, that prompted necessary and serious conversations about crime, health, politics, or safety.  My husband and I run a tight ship and we have always held our kids accountable for their actions.  Family meetings are regular, and not unusual.  We don’t keep secrets.  When one kid messed up, the whole family knew about it, and we all talked about it.  Big decisions were made as a family by assessing the situation, weighing all available options, and having contingency plans. Those are some of the things I did to balance family life – by creatively weaving family time into our busy days and hectic schedules.

On the flip, balancing my career aspirations with family life requires a unique family mindset and complete family buy-in It is essential that I genuinely believe in the work that I do, and it is imperative that my family understands that.  Having a job doing something mentally stimulating, intrinsically rewarding, and mostly satisfying makes all the stress of “work” seem less like work. I am extremely passionate about educating workers of the future, the labor movement in general, and strengthening families by creating opportunities through networking and resources. Including my family in my workforce development endeavors helps them understand why they matter so much to me, and that enables them to give me the space and support that I need to do the work. Exposing them to the process allows them to commiserate with me during the trials and celebrate with me during the triumphs. That is how I balance my career aspirations – by making sure that my family understands the who, why, what, when, where, and how of my aspirations.

As a local woman who has made history, what role do you see yourself playing in empowering future generations, especially women and mothers in Long Beach?

I owe it to the public to pay it forward by mentoring women and mothers so they can learn from my journey and hopefully be inspired by it. I cannot close the door behind me. It is my duty to make sure that just because I am the first Latina elected to the College Board, I am not the last Latina elected to the College Board. In 2018 I was the first woman elected to serve as Benefits Officer of Local 13 in the ILWU’s 84-year history. It is my duty to make sure that I am not the last woman elected to serve as Benefits Officer of my Local. The way I handle my business must ensure that other women are given the same chance that I was afforded, and not denied it. Unfortunately, we live in a world where women and men are judged by double standards. The reality is that women’s abilities and worth are perceived differently than men’s. Women generally have to work twice as hard and overcome twice as much just because we are women. Being a mother adds another layer of complication to the dynamics – especially in predominantly male-driven arenas such as the maritime industry. It is crucial that I not compromise my beliefs and “go along” just to “get along” because then other women will be expected to do the same. The best way that I can empower future generations of women and mothers is by being a good steward of the responsibilities bestowed upon me in all areas of my life.

Can you recall a moment or experience that stands out to you as particularly rewarding or memorable on your journey to making history?

I have several core memories in my journey to making history that I truly cherish.  Having my kids by my side at every significant milestone was great, but having them by my side during the day-to-day grind is even better Doing life with them and having them witness the condemnation is just as critical as having them witness the commendations.  My kids have seen me come home from work in tears.  They have heard me cry over situations that I cannot control. They are aware of the difficult discussions that I am privy to because they sometimes have no choice but to accompany me to meetings where difficult decisions are made. Moms don’t have the luxury of childcare at the drop of a dime so sometimes the kids just have to roll with us. They might overhear uncomfortable phone conversations that we are unable to postpone or prevent. My kids know that there are “haters” who we all have to ignore. We talk about the “noise” that is meant to distract or derail us. Eh. Encourage your kids to consider how that might actually be helpful. For one, it exposes them to the realities of life; that it is not easy and that it is not fair, and that we should not dwell on either. For two, it should strengthen their resolve to keep pushing. I know some mothers who try to protect their children from their work by downplaying what they do. I also know mothers who go to extreme lengths to hide everyday problems from their kids. Then they wonder why their kids are uncaring or unsympathetic. Working mothers should describe their work to their kids, and they should disclose some of their challenges in age-appropriate doses. I’m not saying to dump your problems on your kids, but empathy is best taught from proximal experience, not from a detached distance. Communicate schedule conflicts and brainstorm how to overcome budget limitations together. Raising resilient, thoughtful, unselfish kids does more for making history than any achievement or title.

A particular memory immediately popped into my head when I read this question, and it has nothing to do with making history.  There was one night many years ago when I was driving home after a long weekend of sports and the kids had all fallen asleep in the car.  My husband had to work so I had to take the kids to an away tournament by myself.  I remember that it was very late, I was very tired, and I was struggling to stay awake. When we were about two hours from home, I decided to pull over somewhere to take a quick power nap.  I found a well-lit, populated area where I knew we would be safe, reclined my car seat as far as it would go, and I knocked out.  When I woke up, all four of the kids were awake but being exceptionally quiet.  I still remember feeling scared that something was wrong because they were too quiet.  My daughters were 12 and 10 at the time and they stepped up to make sure that the boys – who were 7 and 4 – kept quiet and let me sleep.  I was astounded to discover that I had been out for almost two hours!  I will never forget how proud I was of my kids that night.  They had eaten, read, and played card games while I got much-needed sleep.  Somehow, they understood that I needed that rest to get us all home safely.  Knowing that my kids were growing up to be considerate and responsible is both memorable and rewarding.

 Looking back on your accomplishments, what do you hope your legacy will be in Long Beach, and what message would you like to leave for future generations of moms and history makers?

I would like my legacy to motivate all moms to pursue their personal dreams and professional goals with their kids by their side.  Every mom should be able to achieve the visions she had for herself at every stage of her life: as a little girl, as a teenager, as a young woman, and as a mother Too often we allow life to get in the way of who we are and who we wish to be.  Our “busyness” keeps us from achieving what we are meant to have.  For example, we complain that we are too busy to go back to school, yet we waste hours scrolling through social media feeds watching others live their supposed best lives. It is a blessing and a curse to live in a world where quick online access to people’s lives permeates every corner of ours. Lots of moms consider the many available platforms as avenues to accomplish their dreamswhich is great – but not at the expense of kids, or by exploiting them.  I get that this gives them the freedom to be authentic, and a flexible way of providing for their family, but some experiences should remain private. I learned in journalism school that print is permanent. So yes, write that blog or book, produce that podcast, but always respect yourself and exalt the integrity of your family. There are so many creative ways that moms can earn an income while working from home, such as designing a fancy fashion line or starting a non-profit foundation – like Long Beach Moms! Believe in yourself, step out on faith, and just do it.  It is okay to not know everything all at once, I promise you will learn as you go. You can be sad, tired, and have occasional meltdowns.  We all do. Getting upset, showing emotion, and being vulnerable will happen. But then, suck it up and get back to work.  Handle your business.  And make sure your babies are with you every step of the way.

I would like to reiterate that I want my legacy to yield four adults who are not entitled, freeloading, lazy, delinquent knuckleheads who are always looking for a come-up or the easy way.  I pray that they become reliable women and men with dignity, pride, self-respect, and solid work ethics who are honest with themselves and others.  If my legacy includes four kids who grow up to be generous, helpful, kind, and productive members of society who recognize that much is expected from those to whom much is given – then everything I’ve done is not in vain, and all worth the pain.

Here’s some random advice that has helped me over the years:

  1. Two of the most vital decisions you will ever make are choosing the person who you will spend your life with, and choosing the person with whom you have kids.
  2. Respect yourself, respect your family, and respect your home.
  3. Break the cycles that hurt you when you were a little girl and do not allow yourself to wallow in the pain or shame they caused you. Heal your heart through your kids.
  4. Make sure that YOU are the person actually raising your kids; not babysitters, not relatives, not teachers, not schools, not friends, not books/movies/music/TV/social media. YOU should be the biggest influence on your kids.
  5. Kids don’t need you to be their friend. Kids need you to be their MOM. Talk to your kids from a place of no-nonsense tenderness and trusted authority.
  6. Parenting is easy. Good parenting is hard.
  7. Keep your kids so “good busy” they don’t have time to mess up.
  8. Always be consistent, fair, honest, and reasonable so your kids know exactly what you expect from them, and exactly what they can expect from you. Communicate and model the behavior that you want to see in your kids.
  9. Manifest greatness in your own life and encourage your kids to be even greater.
  10. It is okay to ask for help but be careful whose help you accept – especially if it involves your kids. Not everyone who offers to help you can, does, or should.
  11. Pray, pray, pray.

Sign In


Reset Password

Please enter your username or email address, you will receive a link to create a new password via email.